On the German Art of War: Truppenfuhrung

By Kane, Robert B. | Aerospace Power Journal, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

On the German Art of War: Truppenfuhrung


Kane, Robert B., Aerospace Power Journal


On the German Art of War: Truppenfuhrung translated and edited by Bruce Condell and David T. Zabecki. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. (http://www.rienner.com), 1800 30th Street, Suite 314, Boulder, Colorado 80301, 2001, 320 pages, $57.00.

Since 1945, many people have theorized why the German army of 1939 swept across Europe from September 1939 to mid-1942, with the retreat from Moscow in December 1941 as its only major setback, and then conducted a relatively orderly retreat from various fronts back to Germany from mid-1943 to April 1945. In 1948 Edward A- Shils and Morris Janowitz believed that the primary factor was the cohesion of the basic units of the German army of 1939. Later, Omer Bartov gave greater importance to the bolstering effects of Nazi ideology in keeping the average German soldier fighting and the army units together, despite the horrible combat conditions on the eastern front. Condell and Zabecki's book provides another fundamental reason for the German army's success in combat: its operational and tactical doctrine, found in German Army Regulation 300, Truppenfuhrung [Unit Command], written in 1933-34.

An English translation of this field manual on combat operations is the heart of On the German Art of War. Truppenfuhrung represents the culmination of lessons learned from the army's operational experience in World War I, especially the shock tactics used in the offensive of March 1918, improvements through field exercises and maneuvers, and "General Staff" debate and discussion during the 1920s. Essentially, this manual is the equivalent of the US Army's FM 100-5, Field Service Regulations: Operations (1940); in fact, FM 100-5 drew heavily upon its German counterpart. In 1952 US Army Europe had several German generals, led by Franz Halder, formerly the German army's chief of staff, compare the two manuals. Their study, appendix E of On the German Art of War, revealed a strong correlation between the two.

James Corum's foreword and the editors' introduction cover the origins of the operational and tactical doctrine found in Truppenfuhrung from before World War I through the early 1930s, especially the influence of Gen Hans von Seeckt, army commander from 1920 to 1926. The introduction also summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the doctrine found in the manual. As the editors write, "Its purpose was not to give German military leaders a 'cookbook' on how to win battles, but rather it was designed to give them a set of intellectual tools to be applied to complex and ever-- unique warfighting situations" (p. …

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